DIY Magnetic Memo Board

Welcome to my latest therapy session. I say that, because it seems like so many of my posts recently have been all about “keepin’ it real” and sharing our stumbles. Today is no different pals. Today’s project could be summarized as follows:

BUDGET: Too much, probably could have purchased something new for less

TIME: Felt like 82 Hours


But hey! Third time is a charm right? And everything that didn’t go right over the course of the past five days, all worked out in the end. In fact, I think all of the frustrations and errors ended up creating an outcome better than I had hoped!

That’s right. This post was initially slated to go live on Friday. But by Friday, I was still gazing not-so-lovingly at this pile.

One thing we have been missing since removing our kitchen wall is some sort of a command station. Previously, it was hidden on the side of our fridge and was a spot to place cleaning checklists and calendars. Sometimes in decorative frames, sometimes just with magnets; it didn’t really matter how cluttered it got because it was not visible to anyone but us.

The newer kitchen layout doesn’t offer the same clutter catching corner, so this time around I wanted to create something much more intentional and attractive. For quite awhile, I have had it in my mind we would create something similar to this. I liked the idea of having a place to put up notes, calendars, memos, etc… as well as a temporary mail holder and hooks for keys. So much function in such a small amount of space!

Above, you can see my original plan was to utilize an inexpensive cork board purchased from Target, a decorative towel bar, cup hooks and Command Strips. I covered a similar style cork board to create a jewelry zone in our closet, and I really liked the outcome of that project. I figured I would do the same for the side of our fridge, but I never found a fabric I liked well enough and the proportions of the cork board were all wrong (too wide and not tall enough).

So after thinking of ways to make it work, I decided to scratch that idea all together.

Then, I recalled we already had made a pretty menu board in our old kitchen about four years ago. I dusted it off, and was excited that the size was much closer to what I had in mind!

The only problem was that the chalkboard portion was not functional other than for writing (could not be used with pushpins or magnets) and I didn’t love the painted finish. I really wanted something with a wood tone and knew I would be able to add some metal sheeting to make the board magnetic.

I began researching stripping techniques (whooooah fellas, I am not talking pole dancing type moves here) and went out to purchase the necessary supplies to remove the painted finish.

I quickly remembered I had painted this board two different colors at two different times. And I don’t know what I was doing wrong, but it took me hour after hour to remove the memo board paint. I followed the directions on the can and from YouTube tutorials to a T, yet the wood had absorbed some of the blue and it wasn’t coming out. I scrubbed. I tried to curse the paint away. I put all of my muscles into it and got it as bare wood as I could. Over four hours of wood stripping later and I decided it was ready to take a new stain color.

Let’s just say that after sanding, staining and giving it a coat of poly, it was so far from the look I was after, I was ready to scrap this entire project all together.

But I am not a quitter. Knowing that we need to get our acts together and work on time management and household responsibilities again, this project just HAD to get done.

So back to Home Depot I went, and I picked up 1/2″ inch poplar boards in both 3″ and 4″ widths (actually, as you can see above, I picked up a few different options but below is what we ended up using). A total of 18″ wide and 40″ tall, we set out to DIY a frame for the magnetic sheet metal.

The idea was to add a small ledge to hold incoming mail and catalogs. Plus, it is a cute little added detail. We measured out the notch, used a square to draw straight lines and a jig-saw to cut it to fit.

When it came to stain options, I tried out the Special Walnut I had planned to use, and I was happy with the outcome just by dipping the rag, blotting it on a scrap piece of wood and rubbing it over the poplar boards.

To tone it down a smidge and add a little extra dimension, I brushed on a little Weathered Oak. I really liked the outcome of the two combined.

After I stained the frame boards, I followed up with a coat of poly.

While the stain and poly were drying, we began cutting the sheet metal. This was a very long and tedious process, given the size of the piece we were working with. We purchased a 2’x4′ piece of steel sheet metal from Fleet Farm; it is important to make sure the type you are purchasing is actually magnetic. To get it to our desired size, we measured and then used a tin snips to slowly cut along our lines (bending and rolling the excess side away as we cut).

Once the piece was cut to size, I rolled on two coats of deep charcoal paint as well as two coats of clear chalkboard paint.

After everything was dry, we began assembling the frame. To give us a little stability while we worked, we used our staple gun to connect all of the frame pieces at the corners.

Using some heavy duty construction adhesive, we ran the glue around the entire backside of the frame.

We then placed down the painted sheet metal, pre-drilled and screwed the sheet metal into the wood frame around the entire perimeter with 1/2″ wood screws.

After we flipped over the assembled memo board, I noticed that the construction adhesive was oozing onto the painted sheet metal. In an effort to remove the glue, all of the paint began scratching off with it. Sigh…

So, I fake smiled as I hand scraped the entire magnetic sheet clean to create a blank slate (a now completely assembled and framed out slate). Another blessing in disguise, I was out of the deep charcoal color, so I went to my paint cabinet to begin experimenting with alternative options.

I mixed our current wall color with white to lighten it and also tried mixing it with our coat closet color to darken it. I liked the darker option best.

This time, I taped things off and painted two coats of white primer onto the steel sheet metal with a microfiber mini-roller.

Once dry, I followed up with two more coats of the custom mixed paint color.

I love the lighter and brighter effect vs. the deep charcoal I originally had selected.

While all of this was happening, we also had to address the long towel bar rod.

The way the rod from IKEA works, is that it fits between the two holders on either end, and is then capped off for a finished look. To shorten the rod, we easily cut it with a plumbing pipe cutter.

I knew I wanted the rod to be gold to balance out all of the polished nickel and stainless steel that we have been adding lately, so I got out my primer and aged brass spray paint (same method I used for the hanging pendants).

After the rod was sprayed, it was still a little lack-luster against the stained wood frame, so I followed it up with a coat of gold Rub-n-Buff.

Once the new paint color was dry, we continued to finish up the frame by affixing the top piece of moulding and the lower shelf with our brad nailer (I may still add the clear chalkboard paint down the road again once the new paint is fully cured).

And the final step in the assembly process was to add a few gold cup hooks to the bottom portion of the frame to hold our keys (pre-drill and then screw-in the hooks tightly). It is important to select hooks that will not poke through the back side of the frame and scratch your wall surface when hung.

The entire thing is a bit heavy, so I picked up two packages of 16 pound rated Command Strips. Following the directions on the package, we wiped everything down with Isopropyl Alcohol prior to affixing the strips.

Level, stick, press, hold, press, run, pray.

Ready to see how lovely she finally turned out, multiple days later?

Like I said, so many blessings in disguise and it turned out so much better than I initially imagined. So very excited about the magnetic feature, I went to my fabric scraps and button making kit and whipped up a few colorful magnets for the new board!

And although the board will ultimately hold daily mail and our calendars/schedules (working on those this week), I couldn’t wait to give it a test spin.

The wood tone turned out so lovely, and I really like how the new color plays with everything else we already have going on.

And the hooks at the bottom add such a sweet and special little detail to the entire project.

While the rail does its job at holding mail and magazines in place.

I purchased some strong magnets from the hardware store and affixed them to the bottom side of the buttons with superglue. They can hold through multiple layers of paper so those also get a thumbs up from me!

Plus, they really just make the board happier!

So there you have it! Now that you have learned from all of our mistakes, it shouldn’t be too hard to actually DIY one of these beauties. And total cost was approximately:

  • Wood: $12.00
  • Sheet Metal: $30.00
  • Stain/Paint: Had on hand, approx $4.50 for small stain and $3-4 for paint tester.
  • Rail: $9.00
  • Hooks: $3.00
  • Command Strips (optional): $10.00
  • My Happiness: Priceless

This was definitely a turning lemons into lemonade type of story. And also an “If at first you don’t succeed; try and try again!” process. So happy we stuck it out! And I am also smitten that it turned out to be something that I enjoy looking at!

Now to get back to the rest of our weekly “Wait-No-More” challenge. Still so much to do before Friday! I am so excited to see what you all have been working on as well!


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